Dedicated to F3Birmingham at our Two Year Anniversary
To the FNG and the Six,
There are books written, podcasts recorded, and endless Slack posts filling in space to try and define what, specifically, is F3.
But the words aren’t the thing. The words aren’t the Gloom. This letter is certainly not the thing.
And I can’t write anything (not really) that adds to or takes away from what you have already found out there in the pre-dawn hours. But there are trends. Phenomenon. Revelations. And that shit is just fun to talk about.
Funny thing is that we’re all men, of one kind or another. We all know who we are…most of the time. Know or think we know what it means to be a man. To be a good man, even if we feel like we ourselves have missed the mark. And I knew and felt all this until F3 came along and T-Boned my sad clown syndrome.
F3 is tough. F3 sucks. And for you Six, or for you FNG, F3 is embarrassing. And it is that way because it has to be. Because of how we are. How men are. And that is precisely this: one thing alone pierces through the daily, minute by minute, hour by hour, slow Green Mile march that is a purposeless life, mingled in with the lies we start telling ourselves to make the slow demise less obvious, if only to ourselves. The guy who played sports 20 years ago thinks he still has what it takes. The guy who hides behind his walls of whatever he built (money, intelligence, career) to make sure nothing ever shames him. The guy whose marriage is falling apart because…well just because. The guy who used to have no problem with the 3rd F before the real Gloom got a hold of him. The despair. The lack of faith. Which is just another way to say lack of hope. And when you can’t have hope, or faith, you eventually can’t have love either…not in the best of ways, anyway.
And that one thing, the thing that cuts through the drama and all your existential, angst-ridden fears and posturing and position and money and maybe even the fitness and fellowship you already had before F3…is pain. And I don’t mean pain from the push-ups. Or the 5ks. Or when Scam is in a bad mood.
I mean the pain of spending hour after hour after hour in the dark, scraping gravel and bloodying palms alongside some PAX you started calling your brother, hear his prayers in the COT, remember his days spent as the Six, splashing Merlot, both of you getting stronger, before the real Gloom steps in to one of your lives and you realized you were never really strong. What’s a push up to cancer? A 5k to a disease in your child? Jack Webbs and Bear Crawls to suicide?
Why is this letter for the FNG? To the Six? Because you won’t know this kind of pain for a long time. You’re new to the Gloom, and we’re glad you’re here. Two months? Try two years. Try twenty years. Whatever it takes for you to recognize that F3 is not the answer. It’s not the savior. It’s not the silver bullet to whatever followed you out to the Gloom. No, F3 is just the arena itself. Life, boiled down, purified, leaving you out in the dark, pushed, in pain, maybe embarrassed. But you have to stand up. Breathe. Count. And keep your ass moving. Because you are not alone. And the PAX need you.
And for the Six, you probably don’t have hope that this will change anytime soon. But on the other side. When you finally feel strong, like you can run wherever, for whatever, and do burpees till your old self would have cried in the grass, right when you get there…there is another test coming. A trial of one sort or another. Because life doesn’t stop.
But because of F3 you already knew you weren’t strong enough. You’ve splashed Merlot. You’ve shaken in the shower because you can’t lift your arms. You’ve been broken. So this trial is different. You can’t outrun it. Out box it. Out sprint, out burp- or out-Merkin the thing that’s coming in your life.
And that is OK.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
So here we are. Men, PAX, who have spent hours in the maddening pursuit of fitness, fellowship and faith, only to realize it couldn’t save us from the Gloom. Death still comes for us. Pain still comes for us. It comes for our wives, and our children and our loved ones and the PAX. So do we despair…? Do we lose hope? Fall away? Drift back? And when they start to drift, PAX, do you let them go? Or do you fall back to the Six…in that deep Gloom…and make sure he knows he’s not alone?
F3 is the arena. The sign. It’s not the thing. And just when this new trial makes you break. And your spirit gets crushed by something you didn’t see coming, until you find yourself splashing a type of spiritual Merlot all over the place and the pain is huge and oppressive and embarrassing you with how weak you are…well now you’ve been here. Breathe. Stand up. Count. You’re not alone.
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…”
FNG, you came out to a park and found pain. You came back and you found purpose. A place. You came back again. You found brothers. And you carved out a space to make it last. You set your mark in the field. In the turf. In the mud and rain and ice. And you kept coming back to the line.
But when this second pain comes, when the Gloom comes to you…shield lock. Bear down. Grit your teeth and hold on to faith like the shield it is holding back all the horrors of this world.
Breathe. Count. Now…go look for the Six.
It might be your wife. Your own child. A friend. A coworker. An enemy. Someone who hasn’t been broken before. They never came back to the line. They have no faith or it’s weak and they are in need of shelter. Put your faith over them. Pray for them. Bless them. Carve out space in the midst of this Gloom of life and hide all you love there so that when the evil of the world presses in to take what you love you don’t roll over in despair, but you roar with hope and joy and love and faith and tell all the ones you’ve gathered that they’re not alone. Give them peace. Not because you were strong enough. But because you already knew you never were.
We are not the strength. The strength is the shield. And the shield is faith.
This is, in part, F3.
See you in the Gloom.